Ever since I got my 12 week training plan for the Great North Run there’s been a number that scared me. Basically the plan builds up my long run each weekend, increasing it by about ten minutes at a time for about three weeks, then eases back for a couple of weeks before building up again. There’s some clever science behind it to do with muscle building and recovery, but thankfully that’s something Ian worked out for me.
The number that scared me was 110. It lurked there in the final weekend before the Great North Run. Follow the plan and it would be my longest run before the big race – 110 minutes, that’s an hour and 50 minutes. That’s a long time to run, especially when I remember that 20 minutes was a challenge at the start. It was also scary because I know that, in theory, to prepare to run a distance, you should train above and below that distance. And I couldn’t run 13.1 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes could I?
In truth I had no idea how long it would take me to complete a half marathon. They ask you when you apply for the Great North Run, and they tell you the average time is about 2 hours 30 – so that’s what I put. Hence my pink race number which means I’m at the back of the pack.
But for a while now I know I’m a good bit faster than that. That’s one of the advantages of all the kit I have to help me keep track of the distance I’ve run. My Nike+ tells me that over all my runs I’m averaging just under 9 minutes a mile. And I know from analysing the stats over my longer weekend runs that I can do that consistently over a decent distance.
I’m lucky that I’ve been able to stick to my run plan without too many disruptions. My husband is very understanding about losing me as I head off down the coast for a couple of hours on a weekend or dash out to the gym of an evening. And I’ve made an effort to fit in runs around weekends away, weddings and other commitments.
So a few weeks ago, when we had a day out planned, I knew I’d have to run on Saturday or get up very early on Sunday morning to fit in the 95 min run on my schedule. With an untidy house to sort and clean before visitors arrived, I found myself setting the alarm for a bright and early Sunday morning.
It was a good day – clear and bright with just a hint of a breeze and early enough that it wasn’t too hot when I set out. I extended my usual route to allow for running a little extra time, and set off feeling good, getting into a nice pace and breathing pattern quite quickly. I ran on past the half way point, figuring a shorter return journey would mean I could avoid a hill at the end of my route.
Around an hour in, I slowed a bit and struggled through a rough patch where my legs felt heavy and my breathing patchy. But I pushed on, doing things that ran contrary to how I was feeling; making a conscious effort to pick up the pace and stretch out my stride. And I found a nice pace again, for once enjoying turning into the wind, welcoming the coolness in the morning sunshine.
It happened again as I approached the end of my planned run. With around ten minutes to go, I was struggling a bit. When I’m training I often say to myself in my head ‘Run the time, never mind the distance.’ So mind over matter, I wasn’t going to fail my goal for a matter of ten minutes. Even if that did mean I’d have to tackle that hill, having underestimated my original route.
And so I ran on. I got to the top of the hill and kept on going. And just like before, I found that little bit extra. A second wind. A boost of adrenaline. A reward for pushing on through the tough stuff. A reminder of what it feels like when it feels good. And I started thinking, what if I do another five minutes? I can do another five minutes… So I did.
And that meant I adapted my route a bit. I started thinking I might as well carry on until I got a bit closer to home. So five minutes turned into ten. Then I had a quick look at my watch to see how far I’d gone. It was close enough to a nice round number, so I kept on going until I reached it.
And that’s how I ran my first 20k. Double my first race distance. 12.5 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes or 110 mins and it wasn’t that scary after all. It was just a little bit more. That’s how I know I have the distance in me. So that’s what I’ll be doing two weeks on Sunday when I take on the Great North Run. Running just that little bit more.
Please support me on the run and help me raise money for Pear Tree Special School. Thanks.